Chip MacGregor

December 3, 2008

Black Wednesday


Ouch. I don't mean to be the bearer of bad news, but today was a really, REALLY lousy day for all of us who work in publishing. Today…

-Simon & Schuster cut 35 people (2% of its workforce).

-Thomas Nelson cut 54 people (10% of its workforce).

-Random House axed some of its top people and announced it is restructuring — and will disband the Doubleday Publishing Group.

-It has been reported that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has let go of several employees (the company doesn't comment on personnel matters). Becky Saletan, the publisher, has been let go.

-And Borders' stock price fell under one dollar. That's a very bad thing — if their stock price stays under $1 for ninety days, they have to do a consolidation of stock (the  opposite of a stock split).

This qualifies as a really crappy day. And yes, most of it traces back to the lousy economy.

Yeesh. The one bit of good news? Retail sales on "Black Friday" looked better than expected, proving that books are still recession-resistant. Today's news reveals that they are certainly not "recession proof." But people are still buying books, so that's something to take to heart.

UPDATE: While there was some other news that wasn't too encouraging (Penguin has put a freeze on any raises this year), there was also some good news for everyone… Books sales in November rose 6% over this time last year, according to a story by Jim Milliot on PW Daily. He also noted that children's book sales rose more than 33% in that period (!), and YA sales were also up (thank you Stephenie Meyer!). When times are hard, people still read books.

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